Tag Archives: outdoor air quality

People on the west coast of the United States were already dealing with the ravages of the novel coronavirus COVID-19; Washington state was an early hotspot, and California as a whole had significant spikes in cases and deaths. Then, the wildfires hit. Unchecked forest fires in the region, fueled by dry tinder conditions, have swept through the region, casting an orange haze of sooty smoke up and down the coast and well inland. So, residents didn’t just have to contend with one airborne issue, but two.

Wildfires and Covid

While the smoke from wildfires compromises the respiratory systems of residents, there’s another alarm: according to researchers, the smoke from these wildfires may also increase risks of contracting COVID-19. Cheryl Pirozzi, a pulmonary physician at the University of Utah says a combination of particulate matter found in the smoke from wildfires suppresses a person’s natural immune system, making people more susceptible to the coronavirus. What’s more, people who already had COVID-19 may develop long-term conditions that put them at greater risk of lung and breathing problems during upcoming wildfire seasons.

To stave off the effects, researchers suggest residents stay indoors as much as possible. If people do need to go outside, don’t use those cutesy cloth masks available at the checkout in convenience stores. Instead, wear N95 filtered face masks that are rated to block PM2.5 particulate matter when outdoors. Additionally, they recommend using air purifiers with HEPA filtration indoors, to remove as much of offending contaminants as possible.

For example, portable AeraMax Professional commercial-grade air purifiers have a unique four-stage HEPA filtration system, effectively and efficiently removing up to 99.97 percent of airborne contaminants, like smoke, viruses, odors, allergens and bacteria from indoor air in enclosed spaces, making for easier breathing and better indoor air quality.

Pigeons helping tackle London air pollution

Researchers in London are using novel ways to determine air pollution levels—and bring to light hazardous conditions in the bustling metropolis. And it’s all being done with the help of the ubiquitous—and pesky—city pigeon.

As part of an experiment/promotional campaign, ten pigeons were recently strapped with tiny nitrogen dioxide (NO2) sensing backpacks and let loose all over the capital of England. While in flight, the pigeons were tracked by Plume Labs via GPS, and air quality measurements were then relayed to a website.

The website, in turn, overlaid readings onto a map of the city, so site visitors could see levels of pollution. The findings: no area covered by the birds’ flight had less than moderate air pollution at any given time, while a good many of the areas of London had extremely high levels of NO2.

Part of the campaign involved social media tweets coming “from” the pigeons in the form of NO2 updates linked to geographic mapping. While it seemed like a whimsical novelty promotion, the tweets bore real data on pollution levels. Overall, London has notoriously high levels of air pollution, and surpassed European Union air pollution limits for 2016 in only the first week of the year. What’s more, 9500 deaths in London are attributed to air pollution, so the air quality threat is very real.

Currently, Plume Labs is expanding the test beyond its airborne patrol, seeking 100 runners, cyclists and “pram pushers” (people using baby strollers, for you non-Anglophiles out there) to get a better read on areas where the pigeons don’t fly. This, in turn, will be used to fuel an awareness campaign about reducing carbon emissions.